A ban that dates back to the end of World War II lifted.
In a significant recasting of military policy away from its pacifist policies, the Abe administration has reclaimed the right to send its soldiers into battle even when the country is not under direct attack.
Following approval by lawmakers on Tuesday the cabinet adopted a resolution dropping a ban that has kept the military from fighting overseas since World War II.
This means Japanese troops will be able to come to the aid of allies if they come under attack from a common enemy -- even if Japan is not the subject of the attack.
Tokyo will also be able to take on a greater role in UN peacekeeping missions.
"For the sake of world stability and peace, Japan will contribute more than it has up to this point."
After losing World War II, Japan was forced to dismantle its military and adopt a constitution that allows the use of arms only in the event it is attacked on its territory.
But interpretations of the constitution have since been stretched over the years to allow for the strengthening of Japan's Self-Defense Forces.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been aggressively pursuing the change since taking office but Korea and China, major victims of Japan's past wartime aggression have expressed opposition.
"The Japanese government must proceed in a transparent manner that guarantees peace and stability in the region, and at the same time it must also earn its neighbors' trust by putting an end to its distortion of past wrongdoings."
South Korea's foreign ministry has said that Japanese forces will not be allowed on the Korean peninsula without prior consent.
Song Ji-sun, Arirang News.
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